"Many laughed to see this alteration in [Scrooge], but he let them laugh and little heeded them. His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him. And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge." -Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Welcome to day twenty-seven of one the hottest months on record. In New York City, we've been at ninety degrees for three weeks. Last Sunday our un-airconditioned sanctuary registered a balmy eighty-six degrees. All I can say is thank goodness we put up an artificial Christmas tree.
Christmas tree? In July? Yes, at Madison Avenue Baptist Church there is Christmas in July. Why? Well, why _ NOT _?
After extensive research and study, let me offer you the top three reasons why we should have Christmas in July:
1-the shopping lines are shorter;
2- the Scandinavian word for Yule is Jul, which happens to be preeetttty close to the word Jul-y; and
3-No one really knows when Jesus was born anyway. In fact, history indicates that the early Christian Church chose December 25th simply to annoy the pagans with their winter solstice celebration.
So why not celebrate Christmas in July? Unfortunately, we tend to limit Christmas to the bleak mid-winter; to the twenty four hours of Santa and packages and trees and fruit cakes. And like good Puritan soldiers, on December 26th we store our yuletide joy in the attic and get back to reality and the "true" responsibilities of life.
Forgetting the gifts of Christmas can be a dangerous thing. Remember Ebenezer Scrooge opting for work and money over love and joy? That choice changed him into a sullen, selfish man; a shriveled soul who lost the ability to feel joy.
It's easy to make that mistake -- to opt for "humbug" over happiness, jadedness over joy. But here's the good news: it's never too late to reclaim the gifts of Christmas. Scrooge found them again. The Grinch found them again. And we can find them again too.
Deep down we all still carry that sense of child-like wonder, a yearning to love and be loved, a longing for joy. It just gets buried under years of "humbug." Sometimes we have to dig it out through quiet introspection ... like time spent around a Christmas tree drinking egg nog in July...
Okay, maybe to decorate the sanctuary and serve egg nog in July is a little crazy. But to celebrate Christmas in July, or April or anytime for that matter is not crazy. Christmas is not just a twenty-four hour holiday, it's is a frame of mind. And to truly honor its gifts, we must carry them with us all the year long.
Podcasts of Madison Avenue Baptist Church's Christmas in July sermons (2009 and 2010) can be found at: http://www.mabcnyc.org/mabc-audio.htm